Hessing Supervers produces sliced vegetables, processed fruit and meal-sized salads, as well as more than 800 ready-to-eat fresh products. One thing that sets the company apart from the competition, in Hessing’s view, is the production volume. ‘If you invest €50,000 in a tub, a slicing machine and a few knives, you can do what we do. The difference is that we have over €50 million worth of materials, and we send four million packets to the Dutch market every week.’ To achieve the student event Market Match, Rotterdam Food Cluster sought out partners from all the different links in the chain; as the market leader in cut vegetables and fruit, Hessing was the logical choice. Frank Hessing, General Director of Hessing Supervers, talks to us about the current labour shortage and his dream of an emission-free factory.
Positioning yourself as an employer
Until recently there was little urgency about positioning and marketing the company, as Hessing is a market leader in the food sector. But as it becomes increasingly difficult to attract new talent, the business has to take its place in the market. ‘We’re a private labeller, so I almost never give interviews. We’ve always preferred to stay under the radar,’ Frank Hessing explains. ‘The only reason I’m doing it now is that we have to put ourselves on the map as an employer. We have to transform our business into a brand, and create a company profile.’
Hessing says there is little difficulty in attracting highly-educated staff. ‘That target group actually comes to us. We have a fantastic company story and we supply great, healthy products. When you meet people at parties, you can be proud to say you work at Hessing.’ Jobs in the middle segment, on the other hand, are much more difficult to fill. These positions include team leaders, operators and department heads: people who are prepared to work on the shop floor. ‘I believe that, if you really want to learn the trade and achieve something, you have to start on the floor. That’s the basis for progress. If you’ve got what it takes, in five years’ time you could be leading a department of 50 people. And if you’re really good, you could move on to manage 100 people and eventually join the management of the company.’ Frank Hessing sees it as illogical that it is so hard to find people for the middle segment. ‘It’s those jobs in particular that offer the most career opportunities, as well as a good salary.
‘The only reason I’m giving an interview now is that we have to put ourselves on the map as an attractive employer.’General Director of Hessing Supervers
A new generation of employees
Recruitment of production employees is largely carried out by employment agencies, with highly-educated staff members being recruited through recruitment and selection agencies. To maintain a connection with the young generation, Hessing works in partnership with InHolland University of Applied Sciences. The company has also become a partner in Market Match, the event that gives 200 young people two days to tackle issues facing the food sector. ‘You can really see a difference in this new generation. They’re very focused on their own projects and on their own “purpose”, and they’re less concerned with what’s happening around them.’ Hessing is looking forward to seeing the concrete results of Market Match. ‘I’d expect the Market Match participants with a real interest in the food sector to be mainly in the higher segment. It’ll be very interesting to see if we get more interest in the middle segment as a result of the event.’
Over the next two years, Hessing will be redeveloping the factory in Zwaagdijk, including significant robotisation. The technical plans for this redevelopment have already been finalised, but for robotisation you need personnel who can use the robots. That means either a new recruitment drive or extra training for the existing staff.
The plans for the new factory include a lot of emission-free solutions. The factory is already using as little plastic, energy and water as possible, and Hessing is looking into the best way to generate energy at the factory once the new situation is in place. Hessing is also keen to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the renovation to create a pleasant working environment for the refrigeration staff. 150 people work in the refrigerator, and they hardly ever see daylight. ‘I recently saw a refrigerator with an enormous glass wall. That’s something I’d like to do, too.’
If you would like to know more about Market Match, please contact Sharon Janmaat.